There’s no shortage of links for parents to nervously click on when learning their child is gay. For example:
- How should I respond if my child comes out to me? (“Listen and ask lots of open questions.”)
- Modern do’s and don’ts for parents of gay kids coming out (“DO: Open a dialogue; DON’T: Ask if it is a phase.”)
- When Your Child Comes Out: 6 Pieces of Advice to Parents From a Queer Teen (“Don’t pry.”)
- 10 Great Tips For Parents Whose Children Have Just Come Out As Gay (“You aren’t responsible for anything and you have nothing to feel guilty about.”)
- 5 Steps to Supporting Your Son After He Comes Out of the Closet (“Loving and accepting a friend who is gay is not the same as loving and accepting your child who is gay.”)
Not to mention the online support groups, IRL support groups, books, magazines, mentors and holidays devoted to the subject. Mykidisgay.com even offers a free “e-care package” with advice, FAQs and a guided journaling tutorial.
Which might explain why Kara Coley, a bartender at “the only known gay bar in Gulfport, Mississippi,” was caught off-guard when she picked up the phone at work last month and heard a distraught mother whose son had just come out to her.
“I’ve received many phone calls working at gay bars for the last 17 years,” Coley tells me. “None like this.”
The woman asked, “What was the one thing you wanted to hear from your parents when you came out of the closet?” Coley says. She thought it was a joke at first, before the woman explained that her son had just come out to her and she didn’t want to say anything that was going to “mess him up in life” or “screw him up in the head.”
It makes perfect sense to me, actually. I thought my mom was going to have a conniption when I came out to her in college. She was totally cool with it but also tiptoed around the conversation like a jewel thief, terrified of misspeaking in this pivotal parenting moment.
I’ve also been a bartender, the storied therapist to the common man. People tell you crazy shit after feeding them booze for a couple hours. One guy confessed he’d embezzled more than $50,000 from his company. Another was having an affair with his daughter’s best friend.
Coley explained she didn’t need to ask her parents anything because they had already given it to her. “They knew I was gay and didn’t care,” she explains, adding that what’s most important is that the caller’s son knows she still loves and accepts him.
“Wait a second,” Coley asked the mother on the phone. “Do you accept him?”
“I just want him to be happy,” the woman replied. “If that’s who he is, that’s who he is. I don’t want him to get hurt.”
(Which is, incidentally, exactly what my mother said.)
“Well then you need to tell that baby you love and accept him and everything’ll probably work out from there,” Coley calmly explained.
Later that night, in the early hours of Jan. 19, Coley posted the entire interaction to her Facebook page, noting how “random” it all had been.
The post went viral, and soon news outlets nationwide began calling.
“I couldn’t believe it!” Coley says. “I was just being myself and people are making such a big deal out of it. It’s hard for me to grasp.”
Coley adds that she’s not sure if she’ll speak to the woman again. She did, however, go through the caller ID at the bar and found two numbers it could have been. “I’m gonna hold onto them — maybe one day I’ll call and check up on her. Or give it to the next frantic parent who calls.”